Around 150 people gathered outside the Santa Barbara County Courthouse Tuesday evening to protest the proposed narrowing of the federal government’s definition of “sex” to be biological and determined by genitalia at birth. Under President Obama, the term was inclusive of gender and sexual orientation. The proposed change would roll back legal protections under Title IX, which states, “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” The proposed policy change was reported by the New York Times via a leaked Department of Health and Human Services memo.
“They’re taking away our protection,” said Bobbi Meilen, one of the protesters at Tuesday’s rally. “You’ll be forcing people into spaces they’re not comfortable with and [that] don’t align with their identity, and that means you’re putting them in danger. We already have to fight with doctors, schools, [and] insurance companies to make our existence known,” Meilen added. “This is only going to make it harder.” Many also disputed that only 1.4 million Americans are transgender, a 2016 statistic from the Williams Institute at UCLA appearing in many news stories about the memo. “We are much bigger than that,” said Syd Abad, another protester at the rally, “and we outnumber the politicians trying to erase us.”